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Re: Packaging a software with "moving" licence

Florent Bayle writes:

> does that mean that the licence of this piece of software can change
> at any time (even for the same release) ? Is it possible to include it
> in Debian ?

The copyright holder can always license the code to anyone, under
whatever terms they wish, at any time.

Once *you* have obtained the code, you (which is to say, Debian) may
redistribute it under whatever terms the license under which you
received it says you may.

In the case of the GPL, of course, the license text must be distributed
along with the software. The way we do this in Debian is by referring to

As for upstream, they may feel that how they do it is sufficient (after
all, it is essentially the same as what we do), but they are in fact
opening up anyone who thoughtlessly mirrors the tarball or whatever
without noting that the license must be downloaded separately to
unwittingly violating the it. Networks go down all the time, and
networks may not even exist if I put the source on a CD and hand it to

I suggest you work with them and try to convince them that saving a few
kb is not worth this headache.

> we can't be sure that the licence would remain the same over the time, and 
> thus we couldn't guarantee that it will always remains free.

This is a maintence problem, not a legal one. If upstream decides to
"take it proprietary" (which has nothing to do with how the current
license is distributed), then the free code either finds a new
maintainer, or becomes orphaned, at which point you'd better hope no one
discovers a security vulnerability you can't fix yourself.

> My personal feeling is that we shouldn't include it in Debian "as is",

I, personally, would not package such a program only because I don't
want to encourage upstream authors needlessly making our lives more
difficult. If they want their software included in a major GNU/Linux
distribution, they can provide a sane source distribution of their own.
That includes putting entire copyright and license in the source.

In fact, if I were ftpmaster, I would simply reject your package on the
basis that I don't feel like going to some clueless upstream's website
to verify that you *probably* recieved the source code which you are
redistributing to me under the terms you think you did. It's just not
worth the hassle.

things change.

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